If you’re doing any of these 7 things … stop it!

When I think back to the beginnings of my credit union career 25-ish years ago, I shutter at some of the simple, but impactful, mistakes I made. So, if you’re making any of these mistakes, in the words of comedian and actor, Bob Newhart, in his Madtv therapy parody, “Stop it!”

1 – Assigning part-time marketing duties to an MSR because they’re “crafty.” I’m a professional marketer, but I’m not crafty. At all. They do not necessarily go hand-in-hand. I’ve seen many well-intentioned credit unions make this mistake, and marketing always takes the backseat to member service needs, loans, teller services, etc. Believe it or not, there is some wisdom and science to marketing. If you want good marketing, hire an actual marketing person or a marketing agency that specializes in credit unions and will work without minimums.

2 – Marketing everything to everyone. I try to give myself a little grace on this one because, in my day, pulling a list of member demographics involved writing code in DOS, which I never learned. However, now it’s fairly easy to pull lists that break down your membership by age, service usage, propensity to buy (or use) a service, etc. If you market everything to everyone, your members will start ignoring your messages entirely because they’ll assume you’re not really talking to them.

3 – Missing free or cheap opportunities with vendors. Whenever we begin working with a new credit union client, our onboarding checklist includes asking who their vendors are (data processor, statement, online banking, bill pay, mobile banking, etc.) and what marketing opportunities they’re currently utilizing from those vendors. Since we work with many credit unions, we typically know what opportunities are available from each vendor, and we almost always discover a few opportunities the client isn’t taking advantage of. Be sure to quiz your vendors about the marketing opportunities available to you. Unfortunately, they’re not always great about offering that information, so ask … and then set your calendar to ask again every six months.

4 – Neglecting to ask for input & feedback from staff. Whether you’re making management decisions for your credit union, or are in charge of its marketing and advertising, be sure you’re asking for input and feedback from staff who work with members daily. While you’ll have to filter their input to some degree – they may not fully understand why you have to implement a service fee, or why a loan rate is “so high” – no one interfaces with your members more than they do. They are a valuable source of member comments, concerns and complaints, so be sure to “test” concepts with them before you make any sweeping decisions or launch a new marketing campaign. And by all means, if you have to implement a service fee, educate your member-facing staff on the why of that decision. They need to be able to communicate that confidently and effectively to your members.

5 – Being vanilla. Who goes to an ice cream shop and requests a scoop of plain vanilla ice cream? If that’s you, please email me. I need to know you. While I understand credit unions generally offer similar services, that doesn’t mean you have to look and sound like everyone else. Find groups of people or businesses – “niches” – you can focus on and serve really well. (This is where closed field of membership credit unions have an advantage. Hooray!) You can think of them as Select Employee Groups if that makes you feel better, but find some groups and figure out what they need and how you can better service their pain-points. When you do, you’ll witness word-of-mouth marketing take flight.

Or, another way to address this concept is to position yourself as the best at [fill in the blank]. Are you the best auto or mortgage lender in town? The best at online services? Offer the longest hours of any financial institution in town? Whatever it is, name it, claim it, and do it really, really well! It doesn’t mean you’re the only one doing it, you’re just the best. And let me caution you against saying you offer the best service. Many businesses say that and almost no one delivers. However, if you really think you can pull it off, go for it! And then be sure to implement step 6. 

6 – Letting good stories walk out the door. All too often I hear stories of how a credit union helped a member through a tough situation when no one else would, or solved an issue for a member that was far beyond the bounds of great member service, and when I ask them, “Did you get a testimonial?” I get a blank stare. They might as well drive a spear through my marketing heart. Do not keep your members’ stories to yourself! Your members are your best marketing tool – make sure you’re sharing their stories. Their words (and photos) will make a hundred times the impact of any radio ad or statement insert. And you’ll be surprised how willingly your members will share their stories if you simply ask. I promise.

7 – Insisting on always being right. One of my favorite sayings is, “Let’s go do something, even if it’s wrong!” While it may seem like common sense to only do things we know will work, there are times when you just have to try something and be prepared to pivot if it doesn’t work. Sometimes I really don’t know if something will work … but if I think it will, and I have data to back-up my belief that it will, I give it a try. Sometimes it doesn’t work, so I always have a pivot-plan, and at the very least I make certain I learn from every failure. However, if it’s not incredibly expensive or time consuming, and if its failure won’t tarnish your reputation or cause chaos in your organization, why not try it? If you insist on always being right and every decision being successful, you’re not taking enough risks.

Becky Zemlicka

Becky Zemlicka

Becky Zemlicka is a speaker and owner of Mindz Eye Marketing, a virtual agency founded in 2001 that specializes in credit union marketing, advertising and social media. Zemlicka and her ... Web: www.mindzeyemarketing.com Details